Oakland manager Bob Melvin was a bit concerned when his team didn't add on after jumping out to a 2-0 first-inning lead Thursday. The Athletics had led in the first two games of this series before the Astros rallied for wins.
This time Frankie Montas and Oakland's bullpen made sure that those early runs were enough.
Jed Lowrie and Matt Olson drove in a run each to back a strong start by Montas and give the Athletics a 2-1 win over Houston.
“We’re not playing our best baseball right now, so it’s important not to get swept and stay out of serious ruts," Melvin said.
The victory stopped a three-game skid for Oakland and ended a six-game winning streak for the Astros, who lead the AL West.
Lance McCullers Jr. (6-2) lost for the first time in 10 starts since April 14.
“I settled in and had a solid day, felt good," McCullers said. “Early on the changeup was pretty horrific but later on it came through. I was pretty happy with most of my stuff today."
Montas (8-7) fanned 10 while allowing five hits and a run over 6 2/3 innings for the win.
“He might have had his best overall stuff of the year and he needed it," Melvin said.
Montas said Thursday was the best he's felt all season.
“I was able to throw my splitter when I wanted," he said. “The splitter was what was working for me today. They were swinging and I was throwing strikes."
Jake Diekman gave up one hit in a scoreless ninth for his seventh save in 11 chances.
The Athletics jumped on McCullers early. Elvis Andrus doubled with one out in the first and advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Olson's ground-rule double.
Lowrie singled on a grounder to center field to score Olson and make it 2-0.
The Astros had trouble getting much going against Montas for most of the day. They managed just three singles through the first six innings, two by Yuli Gurriel and one by Chas McCormick.
Montas had retired seven in a row when Kyle Tucker doubled to right field with two outs in the seventh.
He reached third on a wild pitch. McCormick then doubled on a grounder that rolled down the left-field line just out of reach of a diving Matt Chapman to send Tucker home, chasing Montas.
Yusmeiro Petit retired Abraham Toro to preserve the lead.
Lou Trivino walked pinch-hitter Jason Castro to start Houston’s eighth but retired José Altuve, Michael Brantley and Carlos Correa to end the inning.
McCullers had been 5-0 in his previous nine starts, matching his most consecutive wins. He permitted two runs and seven hits while striking out eight in seven innings.
“We just want to make sure we’re playing good baseball," McCullers said. “You can’t guarantee wins every time but when you’re playing good baseball good things happen."
Athletics: Utility man Chad Pinder was placed on the injured list with a strained right hamstring after injuring it running to first base in the ninth inning on Wednesday night. ... The Athletics selected the contract of INF Jacob Wilson from Triple-A Las Vegas to take his roster spot.
Astros: LHP Brooks Raley was placed on the injured list Thursday due to health and safety protocols. ... RHP Ralph Garza Jr. was recalled from Triple-A Sugar Land to take his spot.
Altuve and Correa won’t play in next week’s All-Star Game. Both players were named reserves for the game Tuesday night in Denver. Altuve, a second baseman named to the game for a seventh time, cited needing the time off to deal with unspecified “issues” with his left leg as his reason for pulling out of the game. Correa, a shortstop who received his second All-Star nod this season, decided to skip the game to spend time with his wife Daniella, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child.
Athletics: Oakland LHP Cole Irvin (6-7, 3.56 ERA) is scheduled to start the first of three games at Texas on Friday night against RHP Jordan Lyles (4-5, 4.98).
Astros: RHP Jake Odorizzi (3-3, 3.70) will start for Houston on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Yankees and RHP Nestor Cortes Jr.
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